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Weather and backpacking plans

Posted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 1:19 pm
by tallkan
Hi gang! Now that we have entered into shoulder season, I have switched gears and am planning my hikes a bit differently. There was an awesome thread on this topic recently which I benefited alot from.

One thing I've done is to plan backup trips, in case weather cancels my primary plans. In this case, I did the reverse, I planned a backup trip in case the weather forecast was better than I expected. I took everyone's advice here and planned my family hike for Forks of the Kern this coming weekend. However, as a plan B, I also planned hiking in the Three Rivers area in case weather was warmer than expected and my wife would enjoy that better. Well, sure enough, the forecast for Three Rivers is 50-80 through Sunday, which is awesome! So now I'm poised to possibly go with plan B if the weather forecast holds up.

Question: How do other experienced folks use weather forecasts? Do you plan trips according to "typical" weather patterns for a given period, or do you leave flexibility and take advantage when weather presents opportunities? Do you have particular resources that you use for weather forecasting, historical data, weather alerts, water flow updates, etc? Or on the flip side, have you been bitten by forecasts in the past and now only refer to them to ensure a storm warning is not in effect, etc?

I find that if I take the time to learn about the weather, I can jump on opportunities that others might miss. I use for pinpointing my forecasts and for researching historical data. I also use NOAA Weather for Android to monitor forecasts right up to the trailhead, especially during this season.

Re: Weather and backpacking plans

Posted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 1:31 pm
by oldranger
I am really conservative and yhe closer to winter the more conservative I get. When nws says 30% during the summer, I'll probably go because even if there is a storm it is likely to be short. Closer to winter the issue is generally with a storm system and the issue is where is the system going. NWS is saying basically a 30% chance of your location being hit but if the storm takes a different course then you can be dealing with significant snow or, even worse if a stream crossing is on your exit route, heavy rain. In other words other than a short day hike if there is a chance of precip from this time forward I choose to watch football.

I am currently looking for windows to go fishing up here in oregon. Looks good for bank fishing for steelhead but marginal for places to take the boat. So Deschutes river here I come. A little rain and a breeze won't hurt me. But I choose not to handle the boat single handed in those conditions.


Re: Weather and backpacking plans

Posted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 1:35 pm
by rlown
what is your trip plan (A and B?) how many days? any gates that might be locked before you can get out with your vehicle?

I tend to pack heavy in clothing and extra food this time of year if i go.

It was 41 degrees in Petaluma this morning. How does that translate to a higher elevation! Not saying be scared, but 50 as a low in the mountains is just wrong except on Mike's early season trips.

Re: Weather and backpacking plans

Posted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 2:05 pm
by SSSdave
Has been discussed at length in past. Below a couple older weather resource threads on this board with many web links.

Below Advanced Searched, titles only with: +weather

viewtopic.php?f=34&t=8927&p=65773&hilit=weather#p65773" onclick=";return false;

viewtopic.php?f=34&t=7778&p=56188&hilit=weather#p56188" onclick=";return false;

The best long term strategy for an outdoor Sierra enthusiast is to regularly read NWS forecast discussions and watch on weather sites what storms actually do. Over a period of years one can become wise. Trust of weather forecasts is always at best a relative issue.

Re: Weather and backpacking plans

Posted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 4:16 pm
by limpingcrab
I have up to 5 backup plans if I want to go rock climbing. Pretty much any other trip I'll just go either way. Some of my favorite and most memorable trips are when the weather was crappy.

I usually use and satellite time lapses.

Weather can make things miserable but at least it's memorable!

Re: Weather and backpacking plans

Posted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 9:04 pm
by The hermit
We had this discussion about October trips. November is a different story. October is one of my favorite months to backpack the high Sierra. November I prefer to car camp in the desert or soak in hot springs

Re: Weather and backpacking plans

Posted: Wed Nov 05, 2014 10:16 am
by Cross Country
I always went the last week in April (Forks of the Kern) to mid October. November to March it's really cold and not enough daylight time for me. That's why I took up skiing (still in the mountains).

Re: Weather and backpacking plans

Posted: Wed Nov 05, 2014 12:00 pm
by tallkan
@oldranger: your take on how differently you interpret the forecast depending on the season is very interesting. its similar to my thinking but I like the way you put it. Stream crossings on exit routes is a wise consideration. thanks for the feedback!

@rlown: Ive checked on access, it looks good so far, they lock gates on Nov15. Extra clothes and food is a given for me in Oct/Nov also, along with the lower mileage that brings. I agree, 50 is not the low I should expect, it was just a reference to the warm pattern they are forecasting this weekend. Even with the forecasted 35f at my given elevation, I prepare for 25f. Plan A..Forks of the Kern (5000' ele and forecast 35-75) and Plan B...Long Meadow in North Fork Middle Fork Tule River (7200' ele and forecast 45-70). Plan B is in effect only if the forecasted warm weather actually comes to be (crossing fingers). If rain or cold comes instead, then maybe car camping!!!

@dave: thanks for those links, good review material!

@limpingcrab: I totally agree with you. dangerous weather i avoid and over the years Ive learned how to do that. But bad weather? nah, thats just part of the fun. My kids had a blast ducking into the boulders and fighting over the tarp the other day in a Jtree shower. They shivered for an hour, said their goodbyes to the world and discussed who was going to be eaten first!! Classic!

@hermit: okay, so you basically look at the calendar and decide on your own! sounds like the words of experience! thanks for the feedback! you might want to peek at the forecast occcassionally though, they calling for a warm weekend coming up!! (crossing fingers)

@crosscountry: same for you, calendar rules. ok thanks! Living in socal, skiing is a long distance hobby for me most of the year so I never go into it. I wish. what a dream that must be!

Re: Weather and backpacking plans

Posted: Mon Nov 10, 2014 8:28 pm
by balance

Hiking the Sierra in November is actually riskier than January. When I go up there in the winter I'll be sure to have a winter tent, warm clothes, the big sleeping bag, a white gas stove, probably plastic double boots, snowshoes, etc. Going in November, you're going to be tempted to try to get away with lighter gear; probably not as fully equipped as you would be if it was real winter.

But then, out of the blue, it can turn into full blown winter. The trail that was obvious going up is now just a big white expanse of confusion, which will test your compass and map reading skills to the max. Landmarks you spotted under clear skies are nowhere to be found. Things start getting wet, and everything takes twice as long as you anticipated. You start thinking, "I wish I'd brought the..."

I like October. The first big snow of the year is (probably) going to melt from ground heat. No crowds, no bugs, Indian summer is great. I like snowshoeing in January. You carry everything and the kitchen sink, but you cut the mileage way back, and you're ready to hunker down if necessary. Don't mean to sound like a party pooper, but November is tough. It's not summer; it's not winter; it's freakin' who knows what!